Buying my first apartment in Sweden: How we won the bidding war

Buying my first apartment in Sweden: How we won the bidding war
Buying an apartment in Sweden comes with a whole new series of challenges. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT
Learn Swedish. Get a personnummer. Go cashless. Moving to a new country means going through a series of 'firsts'. The Local's reader Alexander de Nerée writes about some of the challenges, quirks and adventures he has faced since moving to Sweden.

Buying! That’s the only way to find an apartment in Stockholm. If I had a krona for every time someone told me that, I could have used it for a cash deposit. That is not to say the advice was wrong. Rather than even trying to find a permanent rental, we decided to extend the lease on the temporary apartment we were staying in and dive right in.

Soon it became clear there are different personality types when it comes to looking for places on Swedish real estate site Hemnet: I am the boring “what will we be able to afford” type as my husband turned out to be the more aspirational Hemnetter: “Oh, look how we could live if we had 12 million to spare!”

Beautifully lit photos of apartments, all staged with the same furniture and art, tell you only so much. So, for weeks on Sundays we found ourselves shuffling on wet socks through, admittedly often very charming apartments, the purchase of which we were apparently going to be deciding on based on a ten-minute viewing.

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If that was not stressful enough, the bidding per SMS would start right after. I quickly found out that the apartment you were already decorating in your mind, could easily be sold for a million and a half more than the asking price which was about, well, a million and a half more than you were able to afford. Being outbid at an auction, I was assured, is a quintessential Swedish experience. Think of it as part of your integration.

You can therefore imagine the surprise when one Monday night, after some listless bidding on a place we liked but seemed way too nice for us to win, our latest bid was top of the list. Never mind that we only saw the apartment once and together with 70 others: What if we put the sofa there?

On Tuesday morning the bidding and nail biting continued but at 5pm the agent told us to be at his office in two hours: we had won the bidding war! That did not leave much time to inform the bank that promised us the financing nor to do a frantic and unsuccessful Google search for “standard Swedish real estate purchase contract”.

So here I was, the trained lawyer signing a multitude of papers in a language I did not understand, to purchase an apartment in a country I had moved to less than six months ago. Apparently relying entirely on the agent representing the seller, telling me not to worry because “all documents are standard” and at the same time trusting that the person at the bank – who I had never met – would come through with a mortgage.

Walking back home from the agent’s office in a bit of a daze, we were already planning how we could upgrade the bathroom and install a tiled fireplace to increase the value of the property we had bought just a minute ago. We were integrating fast.

Alexander de Nerée moved to Stockholm with his husband in October 2020. Signing-up to move to a country they had never been to, in the middle of a global pandemic, was definitely a first for the couple. One of many more to come. Alexander writes for The Local about his “firsts” in Sweden.

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